At this time last year, Wisconsin state park campgrounds remained closed on what is traditionally the kickoff to the summer camping season.
Once they reopened in June, they were busier than ever, as people sought places to get away safely while other indoor attractions remained closed.
A few outdoor attractions stayed closed for the summer, too, from Rock Island State Park to Parfrey’s Glen.
The legendary Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells closed permanently, and others, like New Glarus Brewing Co. and the Aldo Leopold shack, remain closed.
But as vaccination numbers have increased and COVID-19 cases have decreased, attractions that closed temporarily have begun to open again. Here’s a look at some Wisconsin spots that were closed last year but are opening to visitors for the summer of 2021.
Rock Island State Park, Door County
After being closed since last April, the park reopens to visitors on May 28. If you don’t already have a campsite reservation for this year, you’ll have a tough time getting one for a weekend. But you can still ride the Karfi ferry from Jackson Harbor for a day trip. The park has 10 miles of trails, Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse, and historic limestone buildings that were constructed by the island’s wealthy former owner in the early 20th century. see wiparks.net.
Observation towers in state parks
From Lapham Peak to Rib Mountain, state park observation towers (and park playgrounds) reopened to visitors on April 30. The newest addition to the system, the ADA accessible 60-foot Eagle Tower in Door County’s Peninsula State Park, opened May 19.
Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area, Baraboo
This popular state natural area in the shadow of Devil’s Lake, the state’s most popular park, reopened in April after being closed for more than a year. The area has a short trail that leads to a narrow gorge of sandstone and quartzite rocks. From there, visitors can follow the rocky stream bed to a small waterfall at the end. Pets are not permitted in the area, and visitors must stay on the trail or within 20 feet of the creek bed.
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Wisconsin State Historic Sites
Five state historic sites that were open only for special events last year will be open again for general admission: Black Point Estate & Gardens in Lake Geneva (opening May 29), Circus World in Baraboo (June 1), the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison (June 3), Old World Wisconsin in Eagle (June 17), and Madeline Island Museum in La Pointe (July). Other sites remain closed, including First Capitol, the HH Bennett Studio & Museum, Pendarvis, Reed School, Stonefield, Villa Louis and Wade House. see wisconsinhistory.org.
American Players Theatre, Spring Green
Wisconsin’s premier classical theater is back with six shows for the summer, beginning with “The Mountaintop” and “An Improbable Fiction” this May. Ticket sales are limited to 25% capacity and masks are required for everyone except actors. see americanplayers.org.
Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield
The big blue tent at the base of Mount Ashwabay returns for its 35th season beginning June 18. Performers on this year’s schedule include Martha Redbone, Charlie Berens and Tanya Tucker. see bigtop.org.
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo
The only place in the world where you can see all 15 species of cranes reopened to visitors on May 1. The site closed in 2018 to undergo a $10 million renovation and was supposed to reopen last year, but the opening was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. For now, reservations are required for timed ticketed entry. see savingcranes.org.
Fred Scheer’s Lumberjack Shows, Hayward and Woodruff
Lumberjack men and women will once again chop, saw, climb, roll and more for audiences in the Northwoods this summer, from June 21 through Aug. 21. The Lumberjack World Championships are back, too, scheduled for July 29-31 at Hayward’s Lumberjack Bowl. see scheerslumberjackshow.com.
Noah’s Ark, Wisconsin Dells
America’s largest waterpark was open for about a month last summer, but it closed in the beginning of August after a couple of employees contracted COVID-19. The park reopened May 29 this year with an early bird special of $24.99 tickets through June 30. See noahsarkwaterpark.com.